Amazon.com Inc yesterday said that it would stop blocking Australians from shopping on its US site after a customer backlash.
The reversal relieved shoppers who had complained since July about being locked out of the much larger range of offerings they had grown accustomed to on the US site following the opening of Amazon’s Australian platform a year ago.
However, it also raised questions about why Amazon had cited Australian tax laws to explain the initial block, an issue that rival eBay Inc resolved without locking Australians out of its US site.
“It’s a very quick backtrack on a decision that obviously hasn’t benefited them,” said Daniel Mueller, an analyst at Vertium Asset Management. “It’s probably a reflection on the Amazon Australia Web site not being great.”
The world’s second-largest company had prevented Australians from placing any orders on its US Web site after Australia applied a 10 percent tax on imported online goods worth less than A$1,000 (US$726).
At least 32 US states have passed or are soon expected to pass similar taxes, but Australia had been the first market where Amazon responded by shutting out customers based on where they lived.
On the eve of its Black Friday sales, Amazon said it had figured a way to levy the tax without blocking access to the US site.
One Amazon shopper said he had already given up on the Australian site.
Paul Boon, who runs a home-entertainment installation business, said the wall brackets he had bought from the US site were either unavailable or too expensive on Amazon’s Australian platform.
“They sort of lost a sale there I guess. Maybe I’ll have another look next time I have to do an order, but you just move on,” he said.
An Amazon spokesman said that after listening to customer feedback, the retailer had built the “complex infrastructure needed to enable exports of low-value goods to Australia and remain compliant with [Australian] laws.”
The move only covered products sold by Amazon and is yet to be extended to third-party sales, the spokesman said.
Separately, Amazon on Wednesday said that a Web site glitch accidentally exposed names and e-mail addresses of some of the e-commerce giant’s customers.
Amazon declined to disclose the extent of the software slipup.
“We have fixed the issue and informed customers who may have been impacted,” an Amazon spokesman said.
There was no breach of Amazon systems or its Web site, and passwords were kept safe, the company said.
Additional reporting by AFP
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